Meet NMID’s new data journalist

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You probably noticed a new byline on New Mexico In Depth this week.

Readers, say hello to Sandra Fish, a veteran Colorado-based reporter and editor who is joining our team as a data journalist working on NMID’s Money In Politics project.

Sandra Fish
Sandra Fish

For more than two decades, Fish has reported on campaign finance, both at the federal and state level, first in Florida and then in Colorado. She also taught journalism at the University of Colorado for close to a decade. And just last month, the Columbia Journalism Review prominently featured her in an article about the difficulties of tracking money as Colorado’s high-profile hotly contested political races heat up.

We are delighted to have such an accomplished journalist as our colleague.

With the Money In Politics project, it is our hope, with Fish’s help, to pull as much of the curtain aside as we can on how money affects political decisions in New Mexico.

It won’t be easy. In comparison to other states, New Mexico has weak laws requiring openness from political candidates, political action committees and outside organizations spending money here.

Political candidates don’t have to disclose as much information about who contributes to their campaigns when compared to states that have adopted campaign finance “best practices.” Meanwhile, lobbyists who are paid to influence state lawmakers while they deliberate New Mexico’s business don’t have to report what issues they’re lobbying legislators about or the specific legislative bills they’re tracking during each year’s legislative session.

NMID’s Money In Politics project comes at a time when unprecedented levels of money are flowing through our political system at the state and national level. Many in New Mexico, and across the nation, are debating the wisdom of such a development.

Tracking all the money requires a Herculean effort, and even then the sunshine produced doesn’t shine into every nook and cranny.

As Fish herself has written: “Many political TV ads these days are purchased by dark money nonprofits such as Americans for Prosperity or the League of Conservation Voters. And TV ads are just the tip of the iceberg. Candidates and outside groups spend money on mail fliers, Internet ads and, perhaps most importantly, ground organization.

“Tracking the web of influence includes not just New Mexico or Federal Election Commission campaign filings. It involves tracking TV ads, following nonprofit 990 filings, seeking corporate records, and understanding the businesses doing the work of campaigns.”

It is our hope, with Fish’s help, that we can shine a light on as many nooks and crannies to show how the flow of money affects political decision-making in New Mexico.

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